Educators as Agents of Change
Special Education Teacher and Recipient of the Top 50 Global Teacher Prize by the Varkey Foundation 2019, Dr. Muhamad Khairul Anuar Bin Hussin, 41, is an educator at heart, but what is even more important to him is his responsibility to do as much as he can to champion the changes he wants to see happen. In an exclusive interview with Dika College, he shares how his father’s persistence had inspired him to be an educator, his work with special children over the last twenty years, and provides an insight into why he insists that all educators must be agents of change.
In June this year, Dika College and ISNC Edu Hub collaborated to organise the Symposium on Special Education. Themed Inclusion and Diversity, the event featured speakers who shared inspiring insights and experiences on the subject of working with individuals with special needs. One of the three keynotes presented was delivered by Dr. Muhamad Khairul Anuar Bin Hussin, who spoke on making education inclusive and providing opportunities for special children. “It was a stirring address, and it resonates deeply what Dika College has always strived to promote, that we must all step up and do our best to be agents of change,” said Pua Chee Ling, Chief Executive of Dika College.
Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar at the
Special Education Symposium hosted by Dika College
Pua Chee Ling & Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar
In the address he delivered Dr. Muhamad Khairul Anuar Bin Hussin unequivocally expressed that all educators must be the change that they want to see. No stranger to the field, and having spent two-decades traversing the elaborate world of special education to bring equitable services to those who need it, he is resolute now more than ever, that – “more must be done”.
Born in 1978 in Endau Johor, the eleventh child out of 12 siblings, he had suffered an illness that resulted in a hearing impairment. “My father, a taxi driver, stopped at nothing to get me the medical assistance I required; and as a result, I am where I am because of his efforts,” shared Khairul Anuar. “My father showed me that, when you strive for your dreams, they will come true.” This first-hand encounter with persistence was the driving force behind his aspirations to be a teacher. It was also the motivation for him to achieve his Diploma in Special Education, and thereafter his degree, master’s, PhD, and his current pursuit of a second doctorate.
His first posting as a trained teacher took place in 1999 to SKPK Princess Elizabeth Johor Baharu a special school for the blind. Today, Khairul Anuar is the Head of Department of the Special Education Unit at SMK Taman Universiti Dua in Johor Baharu; having also served as a Special Educator at Maktab Sultan Abdul Bakar, SMK Taman Daya Johor Baharu, and at the Ministry of Education’s Department of Special Education.
Practical at Tadika KEMAS Taman Koperasi Polis Kuala Lumpur
In the year 2001 while he was at SKPK Princess Elizabeth, he approached the headmistress of the school with a couple of requests. “I asked Puan Siti Safiah Binti Sheikh Ahmad, first if I could start pre-school classes, and secondly if I could provide information to those who lived in the rural areas, so that they would be aware that there was help for their children who require special need assistance.” Khairul Anuar said that in addition to giving her green-light to his requests, she also gave him a one up; she made available a couple of classrooms for his impending initiative. “I made a beeline to the district office to obtain demographic facts and figures on the population in that area, and put out the necessary information using any and every available channel.”
Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar with children at the preschool
for Blind Children at SKPK Princess Elizabeth Johor Baharu.
Teaching the preschool children Braille in class
With the help of my colleagues at school, who were extremely supportive, we made the necessary preparations. “One father from the neighbouring district of Pontian brought in his five-year old son who is blind, and before we knew it we had enrolled 12 students,” said Khairul Anuar adding that this exceeded the recommended number of seven students in a class. “When I started my classes I began to see how intricate things could get. There are children who are blind and deaf, who experience learning challenges as well. This would mean that they require solutions that are customised to their individual needs,” explained Khairul Anuar who then began to embark on obtaining more facilities and assistance for his students.
“I approached non-governmental associations, charity, welfare and private organisations for help; many of which obliged as best as they could,” said Khairul Anuar who mentioned that together with this, a visit from a representative from the Ministry of Education gave him the much needed breakthrough. “Two years after we started, a ministry official visited the classes, and at the end of the visit asked me to detail out what I would need to take things a step further. The result of this was a RM100,000.00 grant, and access to special need teachers,” said Khairul Anuar who shared that besides the funding, he saw this as a firm sign that he should “go all the way”.
A couple of decades down the road, Khairul Anuar has advanced his initiatives to include training in special education, spearheading teaching methodologies, collaborating with the industry to secure work placements for students, helping employers understand the dynamics of training and employing individuals with special needs, and driving the ever persistent need to create awareness.
Practical at PPKI with Children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)
Empowering children with special needs with the spirit of inclusion.
The father of four is also a sought-after speaker, and after the Varkey recognition, he enthused that he has had hardly any of his weekends to himself; but he is glad that his wife who is also a special education educator is exceptionally supportive. No less enthusiastic today than he was when he first started, Khairul Anuar shared what fuels his passion.
Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar at the 2019
Varkey Foundation Award Ceremony in Dubai
Dr Muhamad Khairul with his family
“First, always think a step, if not two steps ahead,” emphasised Khairul Anuar. “It is not sufficient to help a child just for the present, we need to think about what he or she will need five, even ten years down the line; and match this with what the society is able to provide,” said Khairul Anuar who explained that this is an effective way to identify and work towards addressing gaps. Next, he firmly stated that one has to keep abreast with what is happening on both the local and global front. This can be achieved through knowledge acquisition and frequent up-skilling. “There has to be a desire to seek out creative and new ways to do things, and equipping oneself with education is a good way to accomplish this,” said Khairul Anuar. To this he added, “Information is king. Information is key, and information can make our break us.”
Khairul Anuar advised that if a dearth of information is crippling, too much, or misinformation can be downright detrimental. “The quandaries of too much, or too little information complicates the already intricate task of making special education accessible and available,” aired Dr Khairul Anuar. He added that the concerns of misinformation is turning such efforts and initiatives into conundrums. “If we want to make a change, we have to be in control of the information we send out, and any that we receive,” said Khairul Anuar.
“To achieve this, we must seek out and collaborate with like-minded people. Agents of change find cohesive and coherent ways to collaborate,” said Khairul Anuar explaining that this enable initiatives to be spread out as far and wide as possibly can. “Working hand-in-hand with industry counterparts such as Dika College is one such example. The contributions of educators are vital, if we are to make change possible,” expressed Khairul Anuar.
Children with special needs should be given the opportunity to interact with the community
Dr Muhamad Khairul conducting vocational training for students with special needs
“Teaching should not be a nine to five job that just puts bread on the table. It has always been looked upon as a noble profession, and there is much that an educator must do to gain the respect that is due to the profession.” He also explicitly stressed that all educators must desire to be agents of change. “A teacher is an architect of the future. The lives that we inspire today carry the aspirations of tomorrow,” said Khairul Anuar. He hopes that every educator will play a part in creating a network that comes together to collectively help a child experience a quality and fulfilling life. “We all have role models who have helped us through life; in return, let us all be role models to the future generation,” he concluded.